By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

WASHINGTON—It seemed like an innovative idea. Pass a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives that names the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in honor of the first Asian American and longest-serving secretary of transportation, Norman Yoshio Mineta.

On Nov. 4, the House of Representations passed a resolution (HR 4679) naming the DOT headquarters for Mineta. The vote was 409 to 14.  

Mineta had served as a congressman from 1975-1995 representing San Jose and in the Cabinets of two presidents — secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton (2000-2001) and secretary of transportation for President George W. Bush (2001-2006).

The Senate approved a similar bill (S. 400) on April 14 by unanimous consent, naming the headquarters for former Secretary of Transportation William Coleman, the first African American to hold that office.

The situation quickly became a source of contention between the two houses of Congress.

According to a report from the Eno Center for Transportation, only two members spoke on the matter. Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) called Mineta a “great American patriot” and said that he “deserves this recognition.” Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) acknowledged that Mineta’s career “demonstrates his commitment to public service” but also alluded to the fact that “our colleagues in the Senate are also interested in this issue, and I hope that we can work together to find a resolution that works for both chambers.”

Mineta’s political career began in 1967 when he was appointed to a vacant San Jose City Council seat by Mayor Ron James. In 1971, Mineta ran for mayor against 14 other candidates to become the first Japanese American mayor of a major U.S. city.

The San Jose International Airport was renamed for Mineta in 2001.

As to how the House and Senate will settle this dilemma, the Eno Center suggests either hyphenating the name to include both men — Mineta-Coleman or Coleman-Mineta.

The center also points out that the DOT headquarters are actually two separate buildings joined by an underground walkway.  One building could be named for Mineta and the other for Coleman.

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